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Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership

Friday Jun 22, 2012

The Kids Are Okay

Guest blog by USPTO Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino

It was my great pleasure to speak at the second annual FIRST® LEGO® League Global Innovation Award ceremony earlier this week. The event, which took place in the USPTO’s Madison Auditorium in Alexandria, Va., brought together some of the most innovative young minds from across the world. Four teams, out of 272 from 11 countries, were selected as finalists.

Team MATobot (New York, N.Y.) created a milk pitcher that detects spoiled milk by measuring pH levels. Team Moderately Confused (Dublin, Ohio) devised a technique that alerts consumers when meat has been improperly stored and erases the packaging barcode, thereby preventing its purchase. Team Seven World Wonders (Yeruham, Israel) created the FreezeStick, which uses chemical reactions to refreeze ice in coolers. And team S.I.S. Robotic Revolution (Shelton, Conn.) came up with the Smart Sticker to alert when eggs (and other foods) have been stored above the acceptable temperature range for an extended period of time. (You can see videos of the teams explaining their inventions through the above link.) I have no doubt these important innovations will find their way to market. And I hope they do soon, because I really want to use them in my own home!

One thing that truly inspired me at this event was being able to watch members from each team sit on a panel and answer questions from the audience about their inventions, about their lives, and about their dreams for the future. They were smart, they were funny—they were so obviously still children, and yet to see them in all their exuberance was to also witness a young generation accepting its roles and responsibilities as the next innovators and problem solvers.

These kids are wise beyond their years and I am sure I am joined by everyone who was with us that day, or watched via webcast, in congratulating them and saying that the future is in good hands. After all, the finalists of the FIRST® LEGO® League Global Innovation Award are already changing the future and making our lives better. Today it is in the area of food safety. Tomorrow, computers and nanotechnology. After that . . .

Comments:

Wow, great ideas! Exactly how old are these kids? -Remi

Posted by Remi on July 30, 2012 at 05:13 PM EDT #

This example highlights the importance of teaching prior art searches and basic seminars on patents. A search on thermochromic barcodes will show several parties, including the University of Rhode Island, have won similar awards for this barcode solution. A quick search of the USPTO patents would also reveal the solution is patented. Innovation can't be taught in the vacuum of academia's tendency to ignore prior art. For the students, understanding the basic steps in preparing a patent will lead them to true innovation and avoid the disappointment of putting off prior art searches.

Posted by Jon on August 13, 2012 at 05:25 PM EDT #

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